OSAKA – A court sentenced a 48-year-old man to death on Wednesday for killing two junior high school students in Osaka Prefecture in 2015, rejecting the defense counsel’s claim that he did not intend to commit the murders and cannot take full criminal responsibility due to a mental disorder.
The Osaka District Court ruled that Koji Yamada murdered Natsumi Hirata, 13, and Ryoto Hoshino, 12, whose bodies were found in the outskirts of Osaka in August 2015.
According to the ruling, Yamada suffocated Hirata either by choking her with his hands or covering her nose and mouth with adhesive tape on or around Aug. 13 of that year, and also suffocated Hoshino by unknown means.
During the trial, the defense team said Yamada should be charged with assault resulting in the death of Hirata, rather than murder, claiming he had a mental disorder and was in a state of diminished capacity at the time.
Yamada underwent a psychiatric evaluation following his arrest that concluded he was not suffering from any mental disability. It did, however, allow for the possibility that Yamada had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The defense team also said Yamada could not be held responsible for Hoshino’s death as the boy may have died of an illness.
Yamada told the court he “didn’t intend to kill the two.”
Prosecutors argued Hoshino appeared healthy in images captured by security cameras shortly before his death and said there is no possibility that he died of an illness.
They also said they can infer that Yamada murdered Hirata to silence her about the murder of Hoshino and that he choked the two with the intent of killing them.
Hirata and Hoshino disappeared on the evening of Aug. 12, 2015, after meeting outside in the area where they lived. Hirata’s body was found the following day in a parking lot in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, while Hoshino’s skeletal remains were found on Aug. 21 in a mountainous area of Kashiwara, which Yamada had visited. The accused was arrested on the same day.